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Smogue café brings a fresh addition to Torrens

Helena Game

Torrens has received a welcome newcomer to its shops, with the recent opening of Smogue café, specialising in gourmet coffee and home-made cakes.

Owner James Cooney, originally from Melbourne, left his electrician’s job a year ago and moved to Canberra with a goal to open a quality suburban café.

James says it something he could see was lacking in some parts of the city.


“Civic and Braddon have some fantastic cafés, but [only about] one in five little places like [Torrens] will have a really good café, and I think Canberra has high expectations now,” he says.


While James will eventually expand the menu from the current selection of cakes and coffee, he says offerings will remain on the small side.

Smogue founder James Cooney

Smogue owner James Cooney

“The original plan was to open and just do coffee and cakes, and we planned on doing that for the first three or four months, but we’ve only been open a week now, and people have already been like ‘you should start serving meals.’


“So over the weekend we came up with three basic bagel ideas, and I think that works really well with the café, because I want it to be a bit modern and industrial.

“We will do a bigger menu, but still keep it really small, because I wanted to do quality over quantity, so [we’ll do] three cakes and three bagels, and that’s it [for now],” says James.


The new bagel flavours include salmon and dill, and ham, cream cheese and tomato.

James explained the back story to the unusual name of the café, too.


“Three or four of us went out on a Saturday and booked into Smoque [restaurant], and we had maybe one or two drinks before we got there, and my friend could not pronounce Smoque to save is life, he kept calling it Smogue, and so for the next week every time he said a word with a ‘q’ in it, we would replace it with a ‘g’.


“It got to six months down the track, and I really liked the name, especially when it was written down, we thought it had a nice swish to it.


“Two years later, we’ve opened up a café with that name, and we still tease him about it.”






the essentials

What: Smogue Café
Where: 2/24 Torrens Place, Torrens
When: Open now. Tuesday-Sunday, 7am-3pm

Photography by Martin Ollman


Helena Game

Helena is a wannabe journalist studying Communications and Journalism at the University of Canberra. Canberra born and bred, she is hopelessly in love with writing, stories and travel. She recently wrote her way around Japan for a creative writing study tour, and spent another two weeks in the Middle East on a journalism exchange, both of which have left her with a proper case of the post-travel blues. While she plots her next adventure, Helena is hoping to gain as much industry experience as humanly possible, and somehow finish her degree at the same time. More about the Author